Meeting on February 8th, 2003

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February 8, 2003, MEETING OF THE IMPERIAL ST. LANDRY GENEALOGICAL AND HISTORICAL SOCIETY, was called to order by Society President, Estelle Perrault, at 10:00 AM, in the Opelousas Museum and Interpretive Center.  Refreshments, courtesy of the museum and its director, Sue Deville, were served before the meeting.

Miss Perrault announced that the Imperial St. Landry Genealogical and Historical Society has been in existence for ten years.

The Society president then introduced the guest speaker, Margaret Dunbar Cutright, a granddaughter of Robert “Bobby” Dunbar.  Mrs. Cutright acknowledged the presence of Mrs. Aline C. Perrault in the audience.  Mrs. Perrault, who is now 99 years young, remembers the huge citywide celebration and ice cream social upon the return of Bobby Dunbar to Opelousas.  Mrs. Cutright then captivated Society members and guests with the ninety year old story of the young Bobby Dunbar who disappeared from a fishing camp near Opelousas in 1912.

 Newspaper accounts of the time stated that four-year old Bobby disappeared in August, 1912.  His frantic parents, their friends and law enforcement officials conducted an exhaustive search over the next several months, and even a $6,000 reward turned up nothing.  After eight months of unsuccessful searching, Bobby’s parents, Percy and Lessie Dunbar, were notified that a young boy answering Bobby’s description had been located with an organ repairman in Mississippi.  The repairman-musician, William Cantrell Walters, claimed that the young boy was Bruce Anderson, the child of a relative, Julia Anderson.  Walters was brought to Opelousas for the sensational kidnapping trial, which gained nationwide attention.  When Julia Anderson was unable to positively identify the boy as her son, Bruce, the boy was determined by the court to be the missing Bobby Dunbar.  Walters was jailed from April, 1913 to February, 1915, and the trial took place in April, 1914.  His conviction was later overturned, and he was set free.

Mrs. Cutright read her recollection of the story, as told to her by her grandmother.  She told the audience of a scrapbook which had been kept by her great grandmother, and how that scrapbook, which came into her possession, led to her years of research.  She stated that, when she began the search for missing pieces in the mystery surrounding her grandfather’s disappearance, it was not her intention to publish a book.  She also felt that there was no doubt that the child who was returned to Opelousas was the missing Dunbar child, as determined by the courts.

As her research progressed, Mrs. Cutright realized that she wanted to interview Julia Anderson’s family.  After talking with those family members, she understood that they felt that Bruce Anderson had been taken from their family, and that he was unfairly awarded to the Dunbar family.  Suddenly, she was not so sure about the identity of her grandfather, the man known as Robert “Bobby” Dunbar.  Over the last several years, Mrs. Cutright has amassed an impressive collection of artifacts, including newspaper articles, photographs, court records and interviews.  During an interview with a man named Hollis, another son of Julia Anderson,  Mrs. Cutright showed him some of her family photographs.  He pointed out the photograph of Robert Dunbar, and identified him as the man who had come to visit him in Mississippi.  Mrs. Cutright also visited Julia’s daughter, Bernice, who was 91 years old at the time.  Hollis and Bernice maintained that their mother always told them that her son, Bruce, had been unjustly taken from her.

Mrs. Cutright learned that the young boy, Bruce, had been left in the care of a Mr. and Mrs. Bilbo for a while, and that Julia Anderson is buried about one half mile from the Bilbo house.  She stated that, despite the years of research, she feels no closer to solving the mystery now than she did at the beginning.  When asked if she would consider DNA testing to provide conclusive evidence, she deferred to the wishes of some of the Dunbar family members, who wish to “leave it alone”.  In conclusion, she stated that the important thing to remember was the way that Bobby Dunbar conducted his life.  She is working with a publisher, and she promised to come to Opelousas for a book signing when the book comes out.  Mrs. Cutright, a resident of New York, told the audience that the story took place in Opelousas, and the book’s debut should be made in Opelousas.

Miss Perrault stated that she has been asked for information on people who served in the Louisiana Legislature, particularly Edward Taylor Lewis, Jacques Dupre and Henry Garland Dupre.  Anyone having such information is asked to contact Miss Perrault.

Mrs. Cutright was presented with two heavy canvas “book carrying bags”.  Door prize of a similar bag was awarded to guest, Anna Lee Valin, and to Society member, Joan Nacoste.

The next Society meeting will be held in the third floor auditorium of Opelousas General Hospital on Saturday, March 8, at 10:00 AM.  Guest speaker will be Mrs. Edwin (Jodie) Smith, Jr., who has done extensive research on Colonial History.

Meeting adjourned at 12:07 PM.

Submitted by

Sylvia David Morel

Recording Secretary